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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .


Peacekeeping in Africa
Edited by Oliver Furley & Roy May

(Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998)
319pp. Hb.: 42.50; ISBN 1-85972-492-2.



In an era when ethnic conflicts across the world are becoming ever more common and the west seems to be developing 'Africa fatigue' in particular, Peacekeeping in Africa presents a timely review of recent conflicts in Africa, and asks how the continent, with its lack of peacekeeping resources, can begin to cope with this lack of interest.

In their introduction, Furley and May point out that few books on peacekeeping concentrate solely on Africa, and state that their aims are to provide 'substantial' background material and cover the main peacekeeping operations in this region.(p.3) The book covers the policies and actions of international organisations such as the OAU and the UN, together with sub-regional powers and NGO players. It concentrates to a large extent on post-1989 peacekeeping efforts (with the exception of a case study on the OAU's involvement in Chad in 1981).

The volume is split into three sections - World Perspectives (consisting of an introduction, the recent evolution of peacekeeping in Africa, regional peacekeeping, and the role of the US/France/Britain); Case Studies of Zimbabwe, Chad, Somalia, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Liberia, Rwanda and Burundi; and Wider Issues (the role of NGOs, the military and views of the 'peacekept').

Although some of the case studies (notably Chad, Namibia and Mozambique) include some background to the disputes involved, for me there was a lack of context to peacekeeping in this volume, in terms of pre-1989 history in Africa, and in a worldwide sense. The case studies themselves were excellent - charting the recent development of peacekeeping, warts and all, from the disasters of 'mission-creep' in Somalia to the relative successes of Zimbabwe and Namibia, and their effects on the populations of the region. Asking the question 'should Africa take responsibility for its own peacekeeping?' the case studies allow comparisons of purely UN peacekeeping operations with African intervention in Chad and Liberia.

However, the most thought-provoking of the chapters proves to be that by Christopher Clapham, 'Being peacekept'. He brings a much-needed perspective on peacekeeping, especially on how it is viewed by the combatants in the conflicts. He points out that applying 'uniform principles of international peacekeeping' to African conflicts has had very different outcomes, depending much more on the impact of peacekeeping on the local combatants than on the peacekeepers themselves.(p.318)

An interesting volume on Africa, which provides food for thought in the case of ongoing conflicts such as Eritrea-Ethiopia.


Rachael Bradley
International Boundaries Research Unit, University of Durham




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